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Saturday, 23 March 2013


By Victoria Ordin
[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]
New York
I was walking back home from Sarabeth's, my new NYC food crush, and popped in at the Crawford Doyle bookshop, 1082 Madison Avenue.

It's tiny, but as one reviewer noted, "The people who work there really love books. It kind of oozes out of their pores in an almost intangible way, and I get the sense they become friends with the regulars."

For the square footage, it's very well-organized. I browsed for nearly an hour and found so many novels on the European table (novels about Europe not by Europeans). I don't read like I used to--blogging, traveling, dancing and FB occupy a lot of time--but browsing a store like this is like coming home to the core of my personal identity for most of my life. (The associations are almost vertiginous as the topic of home was central to the dissertation, and I feel like NYC is my spiritual home even if I live here now only three months a year.)

I asked a female customer who looked like your traditional bookworm (brunette, no makeup, skinny, straight hair) if she'd read Eugenides' Marriage Plot. She had, of course, along with his other books and said it was entertaining to some extent but not nearly as good as his others. Everyone in there is a serious reader including the staff.

The cashier was on the phone talking about book clubs. This was too strange as she said, "Well, after Middlemarch, it's kind of hard to find anything you like as much." My dissertation was on George Eliot (single author dissertation but took up Wordsworth, James and Kant) and Middlemarch was the subject of my fourth chapter.

Middlemarch is of course regarded as George Eliot's masterpiece though on many levels I like Daniel Deronda, her last novel (not her last book, which was Impressions of Theophrastus Such), even better.

But funny to hear talk of George Eliot by a bookstore staffer on the phone to a woman inquiring about book clubs given that GE was my constant companion for many years when other companions were in short supply.

They have two book clubs t: 1) First edition signed club, 2) Informal club.

Here's how it works: every month (for the first club) they send you a book signed by the author which they believe has the potential to become a collectible and there is a fairly rigorous discussion of this book.

The other is bigger and less intimidating ("You talk less and it's easier," said the woman to the lady calling on the phone).

The employee asked the woman on the phone what kind of books she tended to read: non-fiction or fiction, contemporary or classics, etc.

I had a nice chat with the other employee--there were four people working and this store (minus the back) cannot be more than 400 or 500 square feet at most--about Christopher Beha, whose What Happened to Sophie Wilder was favorably reviewed in the NYT this fall and which I loved until I misplaced it for three months. I found it a few weeks ago and will make that my first book back in CA. We had a nice chat about the author and she said it had sold very well.

Wonderful vibe in this place. I will be back

(Victoria Ordin writes prinicipally about literary matters for The Junto).